From The Times
August 2, 2006
Thai bride admits feeding ex-husband to the tigers
By Andrew Drummond in Petchaburi, Thailand and Simon de Bruxelles in London
SOME think it was premonition that led Toby Charnaud to write a short story about an English expatriate’s death at the hands of his Thai girlfriend. But even if the wealthy Wiltshire farmer had any inkling of his own fate, he could hardly have imagined its true horror.
A court in Thailand was told yesterday how Mr Charnaud, 41, was lured to his death on the pretext of collecting his son from his ex-wife on the Thai-Burma border. When he arrived at her family home neither she nor the boy was there, but others were.
First they tried to shoot him with an ancient flintlock musket. When that misfired they attacked him with clubs and an iron bar. When he was finally dead, Mr Charnaud’s body was dismembered and cooked on a charcoal fire before being scattered across the Kaeng Krajan National Park, one of the last refuges of the Thai tiger.
Although she was not present at the killing, Mr Charnaud’s ex-wife, Pannada, was charged with murder along with three of her relatives.
Having heard the evidence the judge, sitting at Petchaburi provincial court, will announce on September 6 whether he intends to pass the death sentence on Pannada, 35, for premeditated murder.
The court was told that Mr Charnaud had met his wife when she was working as a bar girl in Bangkok and they married in 1997. They then moved to England where they helped to run the family sheep and cereal farm with his father, Jeremy, 69.
In less than two years they had grown disillusioned with life in England and decided to move back to Thailand, where they bought the Rainbow Beach Bar in the golf resort of Hua Hin, south of Bangkok.
But the marriage was short-lived because of Pannada’s gambling habit. The couple divorced in 2003 and Mr Charnaud was granted custody of their son, Daniel, who visited his mother every month or so.
After one visit, in arch last year, Pannada (below right) reported Mr Charnaud missing. But it was only because of the suspicions of his family in England that foul play was uncovered.
Mr Charnaud’s parents hired the services of a Scottish private investigator, based in Bangkok, who used mobile phone records to establish that Mr Charnaud had been at his ex-wife’s home on the day of his disappearance.
Detectives then found a knife with Mr Charnaud’s blood and hair on it. They were later led to where his body parts had been buried in the national park.
Three of Pannada’s relatives admitted murder ‘with provocation’. But the Charnaud family’s lawyer, Boonchu Yensabai, who is jointly prosecuting the defendants, told the court: ‘The only motive can be that Pannada expected to inherit everything through their son.’
In a letter read to the court Mr Charnaud’s mother, Sarah, said: ‘One of the worst horrors . . . is that the first attempt to kill him failed and he would have been aware of his murderers making their fatal attack.’
Mr Charnaud’s sister, Hannah Allen, believes that her brother may have predicted his own death in a short story written for a competition run by a Bangkok magazine. The story, entitled Rainfall, is about a Englishman, Guy, who falls in love with a Thai bar girl called Fon.